The DXCC Desk and the Uncertainty Principle

    For some time now we had been wondering how long it would be before one of the local QRPers came along to discuss their latest DX crisis. Just when we were starting to believe that we would weather the storm unscathed, one came trudging around the corner and made his way up the hill. It was not surprising that he came with questions.

    “Tell me”, he said, after quickly running us through the highlights of the week’s DX happenings “why has the DXCC desk instituted this new policy on 9U? It’s very confusing. I really keep up with the regulations because the final word on DX is set by the ARRL, right? And now, try as I might, I can’t follow their rationale. Why are they again changing the rules?” We weren’t aware of any special status or policy on Burundi that had drifted out of Newington. We were aware of the DXCC truism that ‘following the thinking of the DXCC desk is like a blind man looking for a black cat in a dark room that isn’t there.’ We asked for clarification, for it was apparent we had a confused QRPer on our hands.

    “Well”, the QRPer said, with a furrowed brow and a distant look in his eyes, “I’ve been reading all the DX bulletins and DX discussion groups on the Internet. It seems that the league has released a list of six or seven 9U stations that are no longer counters for DXCC. Some of these used to count, or at least did up until a certain date and some never counted at all. Some apparently still do, if the call was issued to the right DXer. I heard that one was good for a few years, then was an 8-month period where it wasn’t, and now it is OK again.”

    We looked at the QRPer and replied, “Well, to simplify matters a bit, you probably didn’t work them all. So take the one or two that you did work and call up the DXCC desk and ask them if it they are counters.” The QRPer nodded. “That’s pretty much what I did . . . I sent in my cards for my 150 country sticker and one of the countries was 9U. They didn’t count it and I just got credit for 149. However, I had a QSO with another 9U station and before I sent that card in, I called the ARRL and asked if it was good. They took down the call sign, the date of the QSO, etc. and said they would call me back. But they never did.”

    “Sometimes there is a backlog at the DXCC desk”, we replied, “and you can be sure they are doing their very best to help you. They removed the DXCC listings from QST to help DXers. We didn’t understand it at the time, and some still don’t, but it was the best thing for the DX community since Don activated Maria Teresa.”

    The QRPer looked puzzled and asked with a sideways look: “Don? Who’s Don? Do you mean Don Search, W3AZD, the fellow who used to run the DXCC program? Would he have counted my 9U QSLs?”

    Son of a Gun! Time was indeed marching on and this was the first time we’d heard of anyone mixing up W9WNV and W3AZD. We decided to get the QRPer back on track and focused on the apparent problem. “Never mind Don”, we began, “You’ve got to look at the big picture. The ARRL is a large hierarchical organisation and they are looking out for the good of the Amateur operator, right?” The QRPer nodded in agreement. “And you further understand that the DXCC is just a branch of the ARRL, a special wing of this vast organisation, right?”

    “Yes, yes of course I do”, the QRPer said, a bit impatiently, “but I still want to know about my 9U cards.” We held up our hand and cut him off” “First, you have to understand the ARRL and the DXCC desk. Only then will DX Enlightenment allow you to see these side issues a bit clearer. Now, as mentioned before, the ARRL realised some time ago that the DXCC program was costing too much . . . that they wouldn’t be able to continue to run it so well unless changes were made. So they stopped putting the DXCC listings in QST. They computerised the processing of all the QSLs and DXCC record keeping. They added user fees for all DXCC related services and upped the rates for pretty much everything they did for DXers. The idea was to help DXers! The increased revenues are now going directly to keep track of all these details that were slipping through before. Don’t you see the difference? The rules are being enforced, new ones that were long over due are being introduced and everything is faster and more efficient!”

    Son of a Gun! We made a good pitch . . . we were even starting to believe this ourselves. We were sure we had caught the outside corner for the QRPer had to think this over for a bit. Apparently the pitch had been closer than we had thought, because it turned out to be a ball when the definitive word roared down the third base line. “So what you are saying is that the DXCC program is so efficient now that nothing will slip by”, the QRPer said, “and that should I get any cards passed they will be certified as 100% authentic, with a guarantee that the QSO and the DXpedition were true blue. So that’s why they are being so picky with the 9U QSLs, right? They want to prevent another XY0RR, correct?”

    “No! Absolutely not!”, we replied, “you're mixing common sense and politics. That’s a common mistake all DXers make in their early days of DXing. We made that mistake many years ago when we first got interested in chasing those rare and exotic lands beyond the horizon.”

    We thought back to those glorious days for a few seconds, then continued on. “No, there is no logic to the DXCC desk. There never has been and there likely never will be. Stop looking for it and just be a DXer. Stand tall! Work the DX and collect the cards. Use your judgement . . . for as you attain DX Enlightenment, as you begin to understand the Mysteries of the Ages and the Eternal Enigmas of DXing, and when you finally understand the true meaning of DX IS!, it is then that you will become a true blue DXer. You will become one of the anointed ones . . . you will have become a Believer!

    The QRPer looked at us for a moment. Evidently this was a premise that he found hard to digest. “So what you are saying is that the DXCC desk is not the final word on DXing, or on a particular QSL?” We thought about this for a moment and rather than answer directly, we suggested, “Think of it this way. The DXCC desk is an awards program offered by a radio club that you belong to. As Albert so often said, ‘All things are relative, some more so.’ It follows that if you belong to this radio club, and participate in their awards program, then the relativity of their thoughts on a particular country or QSL can become your frame of reference. You will see all your DX questions answered with crystal clarity and the confusion will dissolve before your very eyes. Make the DXCC desk your absolute frame of reference, son!”

    We thought we finally had got through to him because he started down the hill deep in though. Then he turned and we thought we saw the edge of a resentful stare, “OK, if all this is right, why is the DXCC just as slow doing things now as they were before they increased their revenues? Why does it still take three or four months to process cards and why haven’t they called me back with an answer to my 9U question?”

    It was almost as if the QRPer had listened and heard nothing. “Quantum mechanics and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle”, we continued, trying another angle of attack.

    The QRPer looked at us and asked, “Are you sure?” We looked back at him and replied “Absolutely. Look back through the letters to the editor, the DX columns and DX editorials in all the QSTs for the past 50 years. You’ll see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And while you may use the DXCC desk as your frame of reference, you will still find that Heisenberg's uncertainty principle prevents you from predicting both the decisions that are made in Newington and the speed at which anything coming from ARRL headquarters will happen.”

    The QRPer shrugged his shoulders in confusion and made his way down the hill. We wished him well, but until he finally discovered that DX IS! is the only absolute frame of reference in the universe, like Albert, he will be doomed to look for answers that do not exist.

    All this theoretical discussion was starting to take its toll and our brain muscles were getting sore. We decided that it might be a good time to flip on the rig and see if we could exchange a quick 59 with Martti. For, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle or not, E44DX might count! All we have to do is ask the DXCC desk . . . DX IS!

This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX

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Last updated on Thursday, 12 April 2007